SAM HAFERTEPE, JR., JACOB HAWKINS AND PAUL PARDO WIN ELDORA OPENER
Texas Takes Sprint Cars, West Virginia Wins Modifieds and Ohio Outpowers The Stocks
ROSSBURG, Ohio (April 21, 2018) – Eldora Speedway kicked off its 65th consecutive season of racing Saturday and the high-banked half-mile oval was wicked fast as cool temperatures allowed for maximum horsepower and ever-changing track conditions. The veteran experience of three drivers known for their aggressive driving styles, Sam Hafertepe, Jr., of Sunnyvale, Texas, Jacob Hawkins of Fairmont, West Virginia, and Paul Pardo of New Paris, would allow them to fend off all comers and stand atop Eldora’s famous Victory Stage as the first winners of 2018.
Hafertepe, Jr., who has been the top 360 c.i. sprint car driver in the nation of late and a former regular on the World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series had never been to Eldora victory lane. Behind the wheel of the Miles Hill-backed entry, Hafertepe served notice early by setting a qualifying Track Record time of 13.440 seconds eclipsing the previous mark set in 2002. Hafertepe handily won his Heat Race giving him the pole position for the 25-lap K&L Ready Mix National Racing Alliance (NRA) Sprint Invaders A-Feature.
With Hafertepe surged ahead at the green flag, the action behind him was wild as the lead pack raced through lapped traffic. A lap-19 caution for a spin by Alex Hill (Ohsweken, Ontario) bunched up the pack for the restart but Hafertepe was never seriously challenged and led all 25-laps pick up his first career Eldora win.
“This is pretty awesome. I used to get my (butt) kicked all the time by the Outlaws here,” said Hafertepe Jr. on the Victory Stage. “It doesn’t matter if it’s in a 360-sprint car, a 410-sprint car or whatever, to get a win at Eldora is pretty special.”
Randy Hannagan (Pittsboro, Indiana), Butch Schroeder (Leipsic), Dustin Daggett (Portland, Michigan), Devon Dobie (Wapakoneta), and Kyle Sauder (Archbold) rounded out the top-five.
Heat race winners were Hafertepe, Dobie and Hannagan. Koby Allison (Lima) won the B-Feature.
For the second consecutive year, Jacob Hawkins won the season opening event for the DIRTcar UMP Modified division at Eldora. It was his ninth career victory at Eldora. The Fairmont, West Virginia native, who operates a towing business with his brother along the I-79 corridor, has scored a victory every season since 2014 and now ranks seventh in all-time career Modified wins.
Hawkins took the lead from Josh Morton (Piqua) on lap-5 and battled Saltsburg, Pennsylvania’s Jonathan Taylor throughout the feature including several restarts. Hawkins finally rocketed away from the field on the final restart with three laps to go and holding off runner-up Taylor by three car lengths.
“It feels good to get back here. This is a track I always enjoy,” Hawkins said after the 20-lap victory. “To start out with a win here really means a lot. To start out with a bang feels good.”
“I started to get a little nervous caution after caution,” Hawkins said. “You never know what your tires are going to do. They fired off great every time and I like it when I can roll the top here like that. It just suits my style”
Eldora officials used its flex-scheduling option for the season opener and pushed up the start time with unseasonably cold temperatures in the forecast. The track – in order to optimize event schedules in the interest of fans, competitors and track conditions after consulting with its contracted meteorological service BAMWX.com – will use the flex-scheduling for events in April, September’s 4-Crown Nationals and October’s season finale.
“I’d also like to thank everyone that came out and supported us tonight,” Hawkins said. “They did really well with what they had to work with from the weather. It’s nice to get it in early.”
Taylor, Ryan Sutter (Coldwater), Morton and defending modified champion Jerry Bowersock (Piqua) rounded out the top-five.
Heat races were won by Taylor, Bowersock and Sutter and Mike Learman (Woodstock, Illinois) won the B-main. Clarklake, Michigan’s Brian Ruhlman set a qualifying Track Record of 16.894 eclipsing the mark set in October 2011.
In the most entertaining feature event of the evening, Paul Pardo of New Paris beat defending Eldora Stock Car Champion Gary Rahe, Jr. (Milan, Indiana) in a drag race off Turn 4 to score the checkered flag.
Chris Douglas (Lima) led the first six laps before Rahe took over the top spot for two laps. Pardo followed Rahe around Douglas on lap seven in turns one and two and then Pardo powered under Rahe and into the lead in turns three and four on lap nine.
Rahe stayed right with Pardo and when Pardo slid high in turns three and four on the final lap, Rahe tried to make the pass on the low side, but he came up a car length short at the checkered flag.
The balance of the top-five will show Douglas credited with third-place, Rob Trent (Lima) credited with fourth place and Tony Anderson (Lima) credited with fifth place following post-race inspection.
Heat Races were won by Earnie Woodard (Georgetown, Kentucky) and Rahe. Woodard’s 18.500 qualifying lap established a Track Record breaking the one established in May 2003.
The Sunoco American Late Model Series take center stage next Saturday, April 28 with a $5,000-to-win event headlining the “Late Model LidLifter.” The DIRTcar UMP Modifieds also have a special $3,000-to-win event scheduled with the Eldora Stocks battling for $1,000-to-win.
Tickets are just $15 with children (12 & younger) admitted FREE. Full event information is available via www.EldoraSpeedway.com or by calling (937) 338-3815.
Saturday’s event is a “Flex-Schedule” event. Eldora officials will make best efforts to announce the schedule for gate times, hot laps and race start via the official speedway website and social media channels on Monday.
About Eldora Speedway:
Since carved from a cornfield in the natural amphitheater that existed between the Eldora Ballroom and the Wabash River by bandleader Earl Baltes in 1954, Eldora Speedway has grown to be a frontrunner in motorsports growth and stability. Baltes chose to sell the legendary high-banked clay oval to motorsports entrepreneur and NASCAR, IndyCar and USAC champion Tony Stewart in 2004. Eldora celebrates its 65th consecutive season of racing in 2018 featuring the biggest events in short-track racing, including: the 24th running of the $100,000-to-win Dirt Late Model Dream Weekend on June 7th-8th-9th; the 35th Annual $50,000-to-win Kings Royal Weekend on July 12th-13th-14th; the Camping World Truck Series’ Eldora Dirt Derby – NASCAR’s only race on dirt on Wednesday, July 18th; the 48th Annual World 100 Weekend on September 6th-7th-8th; and the historic 4-Crown Nationals on September 21st and 22nd. The complete schedule for Eldora’s 2018, including ticket and campsite information, is available at www.EldoraSpeedway.com. Fans can get behind-the-scenes access by following @EldoraSpeedway on social media channels Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat. Exclusive video content posted on www.youtube.com/EldoraSpeedway has been viewed over 4.2-million times.